Never ignore eco degradation, Amma tells Climate Summit in Paris

21 July 2015, Paris, France

Amma stressed today the importance of employing a spiritual approach in checking global warming, cautioning countries across the world about the ill-effects of humanity’s continuing deeds against nature.

“Ignoring the current environmental situation is like a man on the top floor of flats being indifferent to the fire on the ground floor,” she said in the video message sent to the Summit of Conscience for the Climate in Paris. Read complete speech >

Swami Amritaswarupananda with French President François Hollande

Swamiji addressing the summit

Amma, who was invited for the daylong function by the Special Envoy for the Protection of the Planet of French President François Hollande, could not physically make it to the venue because she was concluding her seven-week American tour. However, an audio-visual address of hers was delivered by her disciple Swami Amritaswarupananda.

Swami Amritaswarupananda noted that the expertise of 62-year-old Amma’s global organisation, Embracing the World, in sustainable development and its longstanding history of interfaith cooperation has made it an important partner and voice in the conversation on how faith organisations may assist in modelling a pivot towards sustainable decision-making for the faithful, as well as for corporations, governments and society as a whole.

Addressing the summit Swami said:  “A  few  years  ago  when  I  was  traveling  in  India  with  Amma  as  part  of  a  two-­‐month  tour  of  spiritual  programs,  we  stopped  at  a  pilgrim  center.  There  was  a banyan  tree  under  which  a  mahatma  (a  great  spiritual  master)  had  attained  enlightenment  thousands  of  years  before.  Hundreds  of  pilgrims  were  there, circumambulating the tree in reverence. When the wind would blow the dry leaves from the tree, they would rush forward to pick them up. When someone got a leaf, he would press it to his heart with devotion and then carefully put it away to take back home. Seeing the devotion of these people, Amma’s eyes filled with tears. She told  me,  “If  only  people  could  see  every  tree  as  this  sacred  banyan.  Imagine  how  much better the condition of our world would be.”

Amma feels it is her responsibility as a religious leader to reawaken and foster such theosophical outlooks and thereby protect this planet—our common home.

Amma  has  a  unique  approach  to  fighting  climate  change,  blending  conventional  solutions  such  as  tree  planting  with  traditional  approaches  based  on cultural and human values. Our organization, under Amma’s leadership is striving to bring  the  lost  love  and  reverence  towards  nature  back  into  people’s  heart,  thus  impacting the community and the environment.

In  Amma’s  values-­‐oriented  elementary  to  high  schools,  many  of  the  70,000  students, ages 4-­‐17, plant a sapling each year and give it a name. Each morning, the children then water the plant and circumambulate it reverently. On the last day of school  before  the  holidays,  many  of  the  children  were  overheard  talking  to  their  saplings, saying such things as, “During vacation, I won’t be here to water you. But don’t be sad. I will come back in two months. Don’t cry.” No one instructed them to do  this;  it  was  spontaneous.  Having  each  child  plant  a  sapling  was  such  a  simple  thing, but what an impact it has had on those children.

Our organization has undertaken the InDeed Campaign for Nature. Launched in  Paris  in  2012  by  the  actor  and  environmentalist  Marion  Cotillard,  InDeed  is  helping  people  throughout  the  world  to  make  commitments  to  protect  the environment and reduce global warming. Through InDeed Campaign we have been able to organize the planting of more than one million trees since 2001, with people from 40 countries around the world participating.

Amma has established a five campus university, ‘Amrita University,’ which has a  student  strength  of  25,000.  We  have  successfully  conducted  researches  on  landslides,  Nano  solar  technologies,  rainwater  harvesting,  sustainable  agriculture, and smokeless stoves.

The  research  on  “microbial  fuel-­‐cells,”  was  recently  awarded  the  ‘Bill  Gates  Foundation  Reinvent  the  Toilet  Award.’    Another  large-­‐scale  mobilization  is  The clean  India  Campaign,  started  in  the  year  2010,  which  focuses  on  cleaning  water  sources, rivers, and villages, coupled with a strong sanitation awareness and waste management program.  In recognition, to this outstanding effort, Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra  Modi,  requested  the  NGO  to  undertake  construction  of  toilets  for  all  the  villagers living on the banks of the river Ganges as part of the Prime Minster’s ‘Clean Ganga Project’.

Confronted with the massive problems of the world, we may feel our scope for impact  far  too  miniscule.  However,  Amma  says  each  of  us  is  like  a  small  candle.  While  a  single  candle  is  insufficient  to  vanquish  the  darkness,  if  all  of  our  candles come together, there is no way we cannot triumph” Swami concluded.

Overall, the Paris summit of the world’s major spiritual, religious and moral leaders emphasized the urgent need for a strong universal appeal and support for effective policies prior to the COP21 conference taking place in the French capital later this year.

Martin Palmer, facilitator of the Summit, said after Swami’s speech : “Yesterday, we had a preparatory meeting with all the participants in the Summit. I think Swamiji summed up this event for us : we cannot change the environment unless we change ourselves.”

Among other leaders who attended the summit were Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch; United Nations former secretary-general M. Kofi Annan; Nobel peace laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus; Buddhist leader Thich Nhat Hahn (represented by Sr. Chân Không); Sheikh Khaled Bentounes, who is the spiritual guide of the Alawiyya Sufi brotherhood (Algeria); Philippines Senator Loren B. Legarda; UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova; Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace President Cardinal Peter Turkson; American Jewish Committee Director (Interreligious Affairs) Rabbi David Rosen; Brazilian politician Marina Silva; former Ireland president Mary Robinson, who is Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Climate Change; and M. Janos Pasztor, who is Assistant Secretary-General of the UN on Climate Change.